Colorado Humanities just announced its short list of finalists for the 2020 Colorado Book Awards, which annually recognize the best literature from across the state.
This year, 48 people participated as finalist selectors, reading more than 211 works in various categories, from anthologies and children's literature to poetry and romance. A total of fifty books were recognized in sixteen separate categories.
While there are plenty of deserving authors on this list (including Westword's own Teague Bohlen), the absence of one work of fiction has already stirred up debate: Kali Fajardo-Anstine's Sabrina & Corina was snubbed, and some in the literary community are crying foul.
Fajardo-Anstine was Colorado's biggest breakout literary success of 2019. Her collection of short stories was a finalist for the National Book Award and was recognized by Mayor Michael Hancock's office for artistic excellence. It also ended up on plenty of year-end reading lists.
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"I am writing in shock at the very conspicuous absence of the book Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine from this year’s Colorado Book Award finalists," Arvin Ramgoolam, the co-owner of Townie Books in Crested Butte, wrote in a statement. "In a time when readers recognize that stories from marginalized communities are vital and necessary, this omission is more than an absent minded mistake on a list that is deeply lacking in diversity, it is a concerted effort to sideline an author and further marginalize communities in Colorado, and needs to be scrutinized by not just the literary community, but all artistic communities and financial supporters of the Colorado Humanities."
Josephine Jones, director of programs for Colorado Humanities and the Center for the Book, explains that her organization does not make the selections; the 48 finalist selectors do.
"This is truly a peoples' choice award," she says. "It is truly done by the people of Colorado. We don’t bring in highfalutin' judges to make decisions. I’m so sorry that Kali Fajardo-Anstine's and all the other books that weren’t chosen aren’t on these lists. But we go with what our selectors tell us."
Jones says that Colorado Humanities reaches out to booksellers, publishers, librarians and others to come up with the selectors, and works to ensure that the people making the decisions come from diverse backgrounds and communities around the state.
The 2020 Colorado Book Award finalists are:
All the Lives We Ever Lived: A Lighthouse Writers Workshop Community Anthology
Volume edited by Dan Manzanares and Suzi Q. Smith (Lighthouse Writers Workshop)
Rise: An Anthology of Change, Northern Colorado Writers (Northern Colorado Writers, LLC)
Straight Outta Deadwood, edited by David Boop (Baen Publishing Enterprises)
Pup681: A Sea Otter Rescue Story, by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Ashley Crowley (Henry Holt and Company)
The Fisherman and the Whale, by Jessica Lanan (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Truman, by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Sandie Sonke (Atheneum Book for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster)
Chronicles of the Forbidden: Essays of Shadow and Light, by John Nizalowski (Irie Books)
Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, by Pam Houston (W.W. Norton & Company)
Soft Hearted Stories: Seeking Saviors, Cowboy Stylists, and Other Fallacies of Authoritarianism, by Jenny Forrester (Lit Kit Collective)
The Lampblack Blue of Memory: My Mother Echoes, by Sarah Adleman (Tolsun Books)
Girls on the Line, by Aimie K. Runyan (Lake Union Publishing)
Light in the Shadows, by Linda Lafferty and Andy Stone (Lake Union Publishing)
The Gifted School, by Bruce Holsinger (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House)
Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery, by Christie Aschwanden (W. W. Norton & Company)
Taste the Sweetness Later: Two Muslim Women in America, by Connie Shoemaker (Amity Bridge Books)
The Land of Flickering Lights, by Michael Bennet (Atlantic Monthly Press/Grove Atlantic)
Nighthawk Rising: A Biography of Accused Cattle Rustler Queen Ann Bassett of Brown’s Park, by Diana Allen Kouris (High Plains Press)
Scholars of Mayhem: My Father’s Secret War in Nazi-Occupied France, by Daniel C. Guiet and Timothy K. Smith (Penguin Press)
The Storm on Our Shores: One Island, Two Soldiers, and the Forgotten Battle of World War II, by Mark Obmascik (Atria Books)
Spotted Tail, by David Heska Wanbli Weiden, illustrated by Jim Yellowhawk and Pat Kinsella (Reycraft Books)
Tree of Dreams, by Laura Resau (Scholastic Press)
The Cryptid Keeper, by Lija Fisher (Farrar Straus & Giroux)
Burn Fortune, by Brandi Homan (CLASH Books)
If the Ice Had Held, by Wendy J. Fox (Santa Fe Writers Project)
You Who Enter Here, by Erika T. Wurth (Ecelsior Editions, State University of New York Press, Albany)
Celtic Empire, by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Lost Lake, by Emily Littlejohn (Minotaur Books)
Tracking Game, by Margaret Mizushima (Crooked Lane Books)
Bird Parade, by Patrick Loehr (Centipede Press)
Flatland, by Teague von Bohlen, photographer Britten Leigh Traughber (Bronze Man Books)
Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies, by Jill S. Tietjen and Barbara Bridges (Lyons Press)
How To Dress a Fish, by Abigail Chabitnoy (Wesleyan University Press)
My Brother’s Keeper, by David J. Rothman (Lithic Press)
Variations on Dawn and Dusk, by Dan Beachy-Quick (Omnidawn Publishing)
Remembering a Witch, by Lauren Connolly (Lauren Connolly)
Stolen Heart, Book 2: North Fork Series, by K.L. McKee (Cameo Mountain Press)
Zapata, Book 1: The Border Series, by Harper McDavid (Soul Mate Publishing)
An Illusion of Thieves, by Cate Glass (Tor Books)
Denver Moon, Book II: The Saint of Mars, by Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola (Hex Publishers)
The Blood of Seven, by Claire L. Fishback (Dark Doorways Press, LLC)
The Legend of Carl Draco, by Gary Reilly (Running Meter Press)
Short Story Collection
April Warnings, by Mark Pleiss (Veliz Books)
Not a Thing to Comfort You, by Emily Wortman-Wunder (University of Iowa Press)
This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love., by Jennifer Wortman (Split Lip Press)
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Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense, by Donnell Ann Bell (Bell Bridge Books, Belle Books)
The Extinction Agenda, by Michael Laurence (St. Martin’s Press)
The Dead Girl in 2A, by Carter Wilson (Sourcebooks)
Young Adult Literature
Fake, by Donna Cooner (Point, Scholastic, Inc.)
Merged, by Jim Kroepfl and Stephanie Kroepfl (Month9Books)
There’s Something About Sweetie, by Sandhya Menon (Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster Childen’s Division)
Winners will be announced, readings delivered and literature celebrated at the historic Evans School, 1115 Acoma Street, at a ceremony starting at 4 p.m. on May 30. Tickets are $25 and available now.
The CBAs are once again partnering with BookBar, 4280 Tennyson Street, for a series of readings grouped by category; dates have yet to be announced, but the schedule will be available at both the Colorado Humanities and BookBar websites when available. Food and drink specials will be paired by BookBar’s staff to complement the readings’ themes.